A few months back we may have mentioned London trio Flowers in the same breath as “C86,” cleverly deploying one of music journalism’s myriad of clichés – the careless, ill-conceived comparison. It’s almost a given that any music with even the vaguest whiff of guitar jangle is now stamped “C86.” That would have been before we revisited the cassette that gave its name to a genre. If the somewhat cynical expanded CD box set reissue of the NME’s “iconic” C86 cassette compilation served any purpose, it proved, give or take a few noble exceptions that time has not been kind to this collection. It’s a mélange of jangling ennuied lachrymose paisley shirted wimpery which in the main appeared to consist of earnest young men possibly redolent of boiled cabbage, limply mewling whilst lackadaisically strumming a guitar. So lazy comparisons be gone because these Flowers are far more fragrant than that.
Flowers first full length album ‘Do What You Want To, It’s What You Should Do’ is set to arrive on 8th and 9th September via Fortuna POP! (UK/EU) and Kanine Records (USA) and is another to be added to our growing list of stunning debut’s released during 2014, a year which seems intent on making a mockery of the myopic ‘ all the best songs have been written’ brigade.
Produced with a gentle loving touch by Bernard Butler he subtly finesses Flowers sound eschewing the “wall of sound” of their early demos for something more refined giving each song the space to live and breathe. It’s a debut album of beauty, insight, maturity and depth. Flowers (Sam Ayres – Guitar/Synths, Rachel Kenedy – Vocals/Bass/Synths and Jordan Hockley – Drums) make brevity a virtue with fourteen songs that rarely stray over the three minute mark and yet adroitly manage to explicate the joy, the passion, the emotional anguish and heartache of being young.
Their sound has evolved far beyond their original tongue in cheek mission statement “to make music like Madonna through a broken tape machine” into something much more rewarding and fruitful. Their honest unpretentious approach and the deceptive simplicity of their songs, ranging from the giddy carefree optimistic rush of youth, to intimate lovelorn confessionals meditating on loneliness and rejection, reveal at their core a real emotional honesty and intelligence. However, don’t take our word for it, go out, and buy the album, open your ears absorb its beauty and let it fill your soul – you will not be disappointed.
We chatted to singer Rachel about the band’s debut album.
VP: Your debut album is due for release very soon. At 14 tracks long, did you have to agonise over what to put in or what to leave off? (E.g. No “You Held My Hand,” or “When You Lie“)
Rachel: We didn’t! Fortunately for us, (we’re very indecisive), the choice was obvious. All the songs on the album are ones that we all play well together live; they’re all songs we felt we could make sound complete as a trio before we went into the studio. We’ve written hundreds and hundreds of demos, but almost always Sam and I write them at home in our bedroom, and they’re absolutely tailored to the sound of the recordings we make…. So mostly it didn’t make sense to bring these songs that were written to suit a lo-fi, demo-ey sound to a studio! But the songs we chose for the album work well with a live sound, which formed the basis of our studio sound. With songs like “You Held My Hand,” or “When You Lie,” the way they’re recorded is really messed up but kind of perfect too, to our taste anyway! We wouldn’t want to try and replicate it or change it in a studio.
VP: Flowers often represent celebration or commiseration, an expression of love or of regret. Were these themes you were looking to encapsulate in the band’s name?
Rachel: We didn’t choose the name because it’s “flowers”… It’s not really anything about flowers or what they represent specifically, although we do like how many different connotations flowers have for people. In Galaxie 500’s song “Flowers,” it’s about a stalker! And then as you say you have flowers for weddings, funerals, anything can be taken from the word. But mostly we chose it because it’s a simple name that you hear a lot and see a lot and it’d be amazing if one day people heard “flowers” in any context and thought of us! Also, they are lovely things, flowers, and we like that, and we also like the fact that we can surprise people by being called what we are and then making a really loud noise live! We like the contrast.
VP: As well as one of the best debut albums of the year you may also be in the running for longest album title with “Do What You Want To, It’s What You Should Do”… What’s the significance behind it?
Rachel: Thank you! And ha yes we might be! Firstly it’s lyrics from one of the songs on the album, “Forget The Fall”, and mostly we chose those words specifically because they seemed to encapsulate best what we’re like as people and as a band, and what making this album was like!
VP: Bernard Butler produced the album, what was the overarching plan? Was it to capture your live sound and energy or to subtly add embellishments that perhaps couldn’t be easily achieved in a live setting?
Rachel: To be honest I don’t think Bernard or we had any kind of plan at the start… It was a totally unexpected thing working with him, and as such was also totally unprepared! But that’s not a bad thing we don’t think. We all just listened to the songs in their raw, live state and then put our heads together to figure out how we could best make the song sound fuller and better, without changing the feel of the song. Every addition we made to the songs was decided as we listened. As we often don’t use bass, for example, we needed to find something to fill out the bottom end of some songs without adding a proper bassline, which would be totally uncharacteristic for us!! So we used some amazing analog synths Bernard has, and that was great because we use them a lot here at home and have a real love for those sounds too.
We used our live sound as a basis, yes, but we never wanted to try and replicate our live sound in a studio, because there’s so much more you can do in a studio and we wanted to be open to making the sounds we felt like at the time, in the same way we won’t try to replicate our album note for note live, because it’s nice to be able to be spontaneous and make the best sound you can for a certain time and place.
VP: Has the speed in which you’ve gathered fans around the world surprised you …Would you say word of mouth and the internet have been a big factor in this?
Rachel: Yes definitely, especially with a name like “Flowers”! It’s incredibly hard to Google! So we’re amazed that people take the time to find us online after gigs etc. I think word of mouth after shows is the biggest factor in people hearing about us initially, as I said we don’t just show up at the top of search results online! But I think once people find us online, they spread the word that way… We have lots of demos and things people can hear, so I think they share them if they like them, which is lovely of them and great for us! We’re constantly amazed that so many people actually like our music… We just play what we’d like to hear ourselves; it feels so lucky that anyone else shares our taste!
VP: You’ve been compared to a number of iconic indie bands from the past; does this ever annoy you…? A feeling that you’re being pigeon holed in a particular genre…?
Rachel: Not at all, it’s really touching and bewildering too to be compared to bands you think are really amazing! It’s kind of surreal really! And it’s lucky other people have given us a genre, because I NEVER know how to describe our own music… It’s every musician’s nightmare to have to, I think! So now I just list what other people have said about it!
VP: You’ve played across Europe and in the USA over the past 18 months or so, what have been your most memorable moments so far?
Rachel: Yes, there have been so many once-in-a-lifetime gigs in such great places… All the tours and shows so far just merge into one happy, exhilarated blur… It’s the weird bits in between that stand out individually… Like being desperately hungry after a show in Germany and finally seeing this impossibly perfect mirage of a McDonalds appearing, and it being so rainy that we couldn’t open the window at the drive-thru to order. We had to wind down the window just for a second with horizontal rain pelting in to say one word of our order at a time, and then we kept speaking the wrong language as we’d been through so many countries so quickly to get there, so it took about 5 window opens to just get “chips” ordered, and the car was absolutely drenched! I’ve never eaten such a victorious-tasting and soggy chicken nugget in my life!
VP: And in true sitcom style you all live together in the same house? I assume there are no domestic tensions over the housework, wet towels left on the bathroom floor etc.
Rachel: We did until very recently, yes! Jordan has his own place now, but every minute of living all together was an absolute dream. There were never any tensions about anything, domestic or otherwise, believe it or not, for over a year and a half! Not one! We’re all best friends; it’s the best situation to be in for a band. Touring and the tension of a gig would be a nightmare, I’d imagine, with anyone you didn’t really like, as it’s such a high-stress environment… But we just get to have the best time together, we’re very lucky!
VP: What’s the plan for the rest of the year for Flowers?
Rachel: We played a few festivals over the rest of the summer… and have the Long Division Festival in September. On 8th September, the day of our UK launch for the album, we’re playing a show to celebrate here in London, which we’re very excited about! And then in October we’re going back to NYC for CMJ, which is really, exciting!
VP: Five words that encapsulate the debut album’s atmosphere/vibe would be ….
Rachel: Simple, heartfelt, contrasting, tapey (but high quality mastering tape sounds, not our broken tape machine demo sounds!), organic.